Freeman Kitchens in his shop, Drake Vintage Music & Curios, 2011
Since the fall of 2010, I have worked closely with Mr. Freeman Kitchens of Drake, Kentucky.
Freeman, a relatively unheralded, yet noteworthy figure of the mid-20th Century country music scene, is the founder and president emeritus of the long-running Carter Family Fan Club.

A wearer of many hats, he’s participated in the wider record collecting community, buying and selling records since his teens, and later more officially through his combination record shop/general store/post office, from his early twenties, on.

As president of the official fan club of America’s first country music hitmakers, the Carter Family, Freeman—with the help of Fan Club members—produced the mimeographed journal/fanzine, “The Sunny Side Sentinel, ” along with a host of written and visual items that shed light on this important musical history. For years, Freeman served as a consultant to many folk and country music scholars on the history of the Carter Family, and on related topics such as record collecting. These include the eminent folklife scholars Archie Green, D.K. Wilgus, Lynwood Montell, Peggy Bulger, Burt Feintuch, Erika Brady, and biographer Nolan Porterfield--to name just a few.
Drake Vintage Music & Curios in 2010.

Over the course of our partnership, I've occupied many of Freeman’s weekend hours; snapping portraits, inquiring about names, places, sounds and sights, while listening to some of his best records together—all in the name of researching the history of his shop, his recordings, and the vibrant legacy of grassroots music journalism and documentation that he’s fostered through the Carter Family Fan Club.

Below is a breakdown of the various completed and on-going projects in support of my research with Mr. Kitchens: 


The Hot Tamales play at Freeman Kitchens Grocery, 1976.
In the fall of 2010, I recorded a full-length ethnographic interview with Freeman Kitchens in support of an assignment in Professor Erika Brady's Fieldwork course. Since then I have spent many afternoons with Freeman in his shop, in a sort of participant observation-mode.

We regularly trade notes, and he makes copies of relevant recordings or letters or photos for my research or for submission to the Freeman Kitchens Collection at WKU's Kentucky Museum. Several new oral history interviews with locals to Drake, Ky. and colleagues with the Fan Club are planned for Spring 2012.

Listen below to Part 1 of my interview with Freeman Kitchens, 2010.

Jennifer displays a tape from the Kitchens Collection. Photo: A. Hardeman
The Freeman Kitchens Collection is a recorded sound collection of the Folklife Archives at the Kentucky Museum & Library, Western Kentucky University. The Collection includes 250, 7-inch reel-to-reel tapes with source material from the personal collection of Mr. Freeman Kitchens. The recordings consists of tapes (or dubs of tapes) of radio transcriptions, airchecks of radio broadcast programs and performances, field recordings of festival performances, and 78 rpm commercial recordings. WKU first acquired these tapes in the mid 1970s, as folklorists Lynwood Montell, Burt Feintuch, and Peggy Bulger directed and implemented the acquisition of these sound recordings from Mr. Kitchens. The Folklife Archives also hold a small collection of related ephemera from Freeman Kitchens including letters from musicians and scholars, and original copies of the mimeographed journal of the Carter Family Fan Club, the Sunny Side Sentinel.

During the spring of 2011, with receipt of the WKU Folklife Archives' Russell M. and Mary Z. Yeager Scholarship, I worked on comprehensively indexing and transcribing the holdings of the Freeman Kitchens Collection. Samples of this work can be previewed or downloaded below.FULL INDEX of the Freeman Kitchens Collection, WKU 
Also of note is the DETAILED FKC INDEX, available HERE.

Guest Curator, "Yours for the Carters,": The Vintage Sound Collections of 
Freeman Kitchens (August thru November, 2011) at WKU's Kentucky Museum    
A visitor watches a home-movie of Anita Carter singing
Making use of rare and original artifacts and multimedia items from Freeman Kitchens’ shop, and from the collections of the Kentucky Library & Museum, this exhibit explored the wide reach of this local man, his small country store, and its legacy in contemporary music history.   

Visit the webpage created for the exhibit for more images and information: Yours for the Carters, Freeman Kitchens      

Listen to a short radio piece featuring Freeman Kitchens and the exhibit produced by Rachel Hopkin for WKYU (NPR) in August 2011: "The Vintage Sound Collections of Freeman Kitchens"

for the NATIONAL REGISTRY of RECORDED SOUND (National Recording Preservation Board, Library of Congress) 

I will be presenting my current research with Mr. Kitchens at two upcoming academic conferences:

(Collecting and Collectibles Area)
Boston, Mass., April 11-14, 2012.
Paper Presentation, "Yours for the Carters": The Country Music Collections of Freeman Kitchens and the Carter Family Fan Club

Nashville, Tenn. May 24-26, 2012.
Paper Presentation, "Yours for the Carters": Freeman Kitchens and the Carter Family Fan Club